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Governance Subcommittee Minutes 

Tuesday, January 3, 2012 | 2:00 PM - 4:00 PM

Meeting Location: DHS-DRS Office Building, Suter Conference Room - 3rd Floor; 400 W. Lawrence, Springfield
Telephone: (888) 363-4735

Members Present

Kris Smith
Deb Murrill
Dan Thompson
Cynthia Riseman
Jenny Geirnaeirt (for Rep. Watson)
Howard Thomas
Marybeth Lauderdale
Marcia Breese
Denise Avant
Janet Lambert
John Miller
Ray Campbell
Margaret Vaughn
Elizabeth Gastelum
Janice Thomas
Randy Shearburn
Serena Preston
Nicole Wills
John Little

Open Meetings Act Business

Kris Smith provided information and described the process for new requirements under the Open Meetings Act. The workgroup is required to establish meeting dates for the remainder of the year and this information will be posted on the Governor’s website.

Past Action Items

At the last meeting, ISBE agreed to do a survey of other schools to determine their funding. Cynthia Riseman indicated the information was not available as a discussion with Beth Hanselman, ISBE, was necessary. Beth has been out of the office, but they hope to have the information next week.

At the last meeting, Marcia Breese agreed to gather additional information on other state schools regarding student population, total budget, cost of serving as a statewide resource, their GRF budget and out of state student costs. She reported:

  • Texas has 560 students and a budget of $27 million.
  • Maryland has 479 students and a budget of $37,757,000.
  • Florida has accepted a limited number of students from out of state. They have a new superintendent from Iowa who is very familiar with Illinois and will be a good resource person.
  • Arizona serves anyone with a hearing loss and they have 2 campuses.
  1. They are in charge of all deaf and blind education in the state.
  2. They have a presence at all IEP meetings.
  3. The local school districts serve children, but Arizona monitors their activities.
  4. Their budget of $54,735,800, is for all deaf and visually impaired students in the state.
  5. Arizona is a model to look at for a statewide resource.
  6. They have 2,129 students (of those, 472 are in K-12, 78 in pre-K, 119 in EI and 1,260 in regional programs).

(It was noted Arizona’s population is 6 ½ million compared to Illinois’ 12 million. This will need to be considered when making the determination to be a statewide resource.)

Jane Breen was to collect information on the schools for the visually impaired in Texas and Maryland, however she was not in attendance to report her findings.

Ray Campbell reported on the Washington State School for the Blind. WSSB has Superintendent who reports to the Governor and a 9 member board of trustees who represent each congressional district of the state. Mr. Campbell believes the members are gubernatorial appointments and they are advisory in nature, without authority over the superintendent. Ex-officio members might be selected by various organizations and not gubernatorial appointments.

WSSB has1600 students and works with local school districts and consumer organizations. There appears to be less bureaucracy and more authority to accomplish things. Mr. Campbell was not sure about their out of state student population, however, they do work with Oregon because their state school for the blind closed.

WSSB is considering a distance learning program, especially with Oregon. WSSB charges for services, such as activity fees (outside of the state appropriation), but does not charge for tuition. Mr. Campbell is not sure if students from Oregon are charged a higher tuition rate. WSSB can charge a fee for the use of their facility. In Illinois, fees are returned to GRF, or a donation may be made to a foundation, however this does not generate much income.

Governance Discussion

Kris Smith asked the workgroup’s thoughts about the schools as a stand-alone state agency who work with CMS and go before the legislature for appropriations. She mentioned Rep. Feigenholtz wants the schools to maximize state and federal funds for services for students. What is the best way to do this? If a separate state agency is the answer, what additional funds will be secured by doing this?

The group discussed the 3 major issues facing the schools, which are 1) the ability to hire staff in a timely manner, 2) More control over the budget and how it is spent, and 3) purchasing. These issues needs to be resolved, but the schools also need to honor existing bargaining agreements.

Margaret Vaughn indicated Rep. Feigenholtz wants the schools to get General State Aid and funding from ISBE. She indicated the workgroup and Department needs to give SB 170 a chance for the hiring aspect, and then the workgroup needs to look at the purchasing aspect.

There was a further discussion about the schools ability to secure General State Aid and amending the School Code to achieve this. General State Aid is unrestricted and can be used for anything. Nicole Wells indicated Section 18-805 of the School Code, which pertains to lab schools could be amended – this would provide a flat rate, however, the schools would have a different set of requirements they would need to meet, which ISBE indicated they would research. Right now the flat rate is $6,119 per student for lab schools and General State Aid is pro-rated at 5%. About $2.7million would be provided to the schools under this plan and that figure is based upon 2010 enrollment figures.

The question was raised – would DHS reduce the schools’ budget by $2.7 million if they receive this amount under GSA? Even in the schools move, they will need additional resources to cover the additional headcount that is necessary to take care of the supports that DHS currently provides. In addition, the schools would need to consider upkeep of grounds, structures, etc. As its own entity, the schools would not be exempt from budget cuts.

As a lab school, ISD/ISVI would not have to partner with a public university, though such a partnership might be an advantage. Nicole Wells was going to do more research on lab schools. Kris Smith asked Marybeth Lauderdale to reach out to Dr. Maribeth Lartz at ISU to invite her to the workgroup meetings to discuss this idea and to also provide input in this process.

Janet Lambert examined the Personnel Code and found the Illinois Math and Science Academy is exempt under the Personnel Code. Under IMSA statute, the Director has authority to hire staff. The workgroup could approach the Governor’s office to use his exemption under the Personnel Code for the schools since SB 170 is in place. The section of the Personnel Code is 20 ILCS 415/46 Section 2.

It was noted IMSA is not unionized. Margaret Vaughn indicated the unions were opposed to removal of employees from the Personnel Code. John Little IFT was opposed to that removal in absence of other safeguards or provisions.

Kris Smith described the approval process for personnel issues as going through these levels: budget, labor relations, personnel, Governor’s Office, posting, interviewing, recommendation for hiring, Governor’s office approval for hiring – the process is the same for VR which is federally funded. John Miller asked if we can look at changing the approval processes.

Kris Smith also indicated the length of time for interviewing and hiring has to do with budget issues. These issues will still be present under SB 170 so the Department needs to meet with the bill sponsors to determine their intent.

SB 170 gives the superintendents the ability to hire staff. More staff are needed to support and handle these responsibilities, however, sufficient funds are not available and money cannot be moved to the Personnel Services line. Kris Smith asked Elizabeth Gastelum is she could research the State Finance Act to determine why money cannot be transferred and to see if this also affect IMSA.

Marybeth Lauderdale provided examples of barriers in the purchasing process. IMSA is under the Board of Higher Education so their purchases are the same as colleges. State Agency purchasing is more stringent than higher education purchasing. A recommendation was made to look at Procurement Codes to determine if the schools be exempt or modified. Margaret Vaughn indicated she would look at several of them.

Margaret Vaughn suggested inviting Rep. Roger Eddy to a workgroup meeting – he is a state representative, but he is also a school superintendent.

Recommendations

A recommendation was made to create an Education Division under DHS that is recognized by the Governor as an education entity under DHS rather than part of a state agency. It would be exempt from cuts to state agencies and would follow budget cuts aligned to education. Submit a legislative proposal for this purpose.

Marybeth Lauderdale indicated the 5 strong schools that were researched have a board and are a separate entity. Nicole Wells indicated she would more background information on the Philip J. Rock School and IMSA.

The seven models for consideration are:

  1. Under DHS with changes to become a separate division
  2. Separate state agency
  3. Under the Board of Higher Education
  4. Under the State Board of Education
  5. Become a private entity
  6. Remain in DHS within DRS
  7. Become a separate school district

Numbers 1 and 2 were the top recommendations.

Additional recommendations:

  1. The Advisory Group should investigate the opportunity to access General State Aid.
  2. SB 170 should be evaluated and an evaluation as to how this model will work.

Meetings for Next Year

First Tuesday of every month from 2:00 PM to 4:00 PM.